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Barring taking a helmet on a 50-mile ride before buying it:

Some kinds of chin straps, for example, won't stay tight, and some kinds of cages aren't comfortable no matter how I adjust them. What should I look for?

This isn't a product recommendation question (although that would be nice). I'm interested in knowing what features to look for.

Alternately, is there anything I can do to an existing helmet to make it more comfortable on longer rides?

(If it'll help, I ride for commuting, running errands, and touring; aero or ultra-light features are appreciated but aren't a priority, but ventilation is important.)

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Put one on your head, adjust it to fit, and then try to slide it off your head in all directions. If you feel any pressure points or hot spots, you then need to determine if that will be alleviated by the little bits of foam included with most helmets, or if you need a different size or model of helmet.

As far as long-ride wear-ability is concerned, when you try on a helmet you need to be very aware of places the hard foam contacts your head. You also need to be aware of the weight of the helmet and ventilation when you start thinking about long rides. In most cases, for rides longer than about 2 hours, a more expensive (read: lighter and more ventilated) helmet will be more comfortable IF and only if it fits ok on your head.

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One other thing to mention is the color. That stylish black helmet that fits well in all respects can be a bit warm on a hot, sunny day. –  user313 Oct 20 '10 at 19:44
    
With most helmets being at least somewhat reflective, I've never noticed uncomfortable amounts of heat from darker helmets. But then I've never had an all-black helmet, either. –  alesplin Oct 21 '10 at 16:50
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For stuff like that, I just tend to find a bike shop I trust, and listen to what they have to say about different helmets. They get a lot of feedback about the equipment they sell, so if a particular helmet doesn't stay adjusted, they'd know.

Of course, it's important you do trust them, both to actually collect the feedback and not ignore it, and also to not just try to sell you the most expensive item they have.

But building a good relationship with an awesome bike shop is something I think every serious cyclist should do anyway, so this would just be the payoff :)

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Past performance is the best indicator, if you have a helmet that you like. Most helmet companies vary the shape and suspension very little between models. For instance, the company may have a few low end models that use only adhesive or velcro pads and straps, then a set of mid to upper end models with more of a suspended 'cage' harness and straps. The harness may adjust with sliders or with a dial, but will have a fit fairly similar between models.

I've never spent more than $60 on a helmet, so I can't speak about high-end models, but I know from past experience that one particular company makes a helmet/harness system that fits my head substantially better than the two others that I have tried.

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